Measles is virus infection which was one of the most common diseases of modern man, but is now being eradicated by immunisation. It is predominantly a disease of childhood, causing fever and rash and leading to a very ill child.
The incubation period, from exposure to the first symptoms, is between 9 and 11 days. The time from exposure to the appearance of the rash is about 14 days. First symptoms are feeling tired and exhausted, irritability, high fever, runny eyes with swollen eyelids, dislike of the light, and cough and cold symptoms.
A bright red rash breaks out on the forehead and face, then neck and trunk, working down to the feet over three days. The rash tends to last about three days in each site.
Complications of measles can include: ear infections, convulsions due to the fever (febrile convulsions), pneumonia, conjunctivitis and occasionally more serious eye problems. The heart and nervous system may also be affected. Measles can be fatal or lead to continuing disability, so prevention is much the best option, as no cure yet exists.
|Diarrhoea||1 in 6|
|Ear infections||1 in 20|
|Pneumonia / bronchitis||1 in 25|
|Fits (convulsions)||1 in 200|
|Meningitis / encephalitis||1 in 1000|
|Death||1 in 2500 to 5000|
|Serious brain complications years later (Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis)||1 in 8000 (of children who have measles under 2 years)|
The cause of measles is the rubeola virus. It has been known for centuries, having been described in writings as long ago as the tenth century.
This is essentially made on the story and symptoms. There are laboratory tests, but these would seldom be of any practical use.
- There is no specific treatment, and basically treatment for the symptoms of fever, aches and pains etc., is all that is possible.
- The patient should drink as much as possible, even if off their food.
- If secondary infections (usually bacterial in origin, and therefore treatable) come on while the patient has measles, then the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
- The patient will seem very ill, and if in doubt, you should consult with your doctor. He or she may, however, not be able to add much to what you are already doing. In severe cases your doctor may arrange admission to hospital.
Previously there was a vaccination for measles, given early in the second year of life, in the UK. There is now a vaccine, which, in the UK, is given at at 12 to 15 months, along with vaccines for mumps and German measles. A booster is given before starting school. This vaccine is known as MMR.
Actually having the disease confers lifelong immunity and the vaccine is supposed to have a similar effect. If the worldwide uptake of any vaccine is high enough, the actual disease can be eradicated, as was achieved with smallpox.